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ACR will open RAW files, RGB TIFFs and RGB JPEGs. It's not designed to open grayscale images saved as grayscale files.
> Is there some tag that is attached to a b&w tif file or can CR determine if there is color in the file?
In a sense, yes. That is, if you asked Vuescan to scan to grayscale, then the resulting TIF will have only one channel (instead of 3, R-G-B). I suppose ACR wants all 3 channels, so I'd advise next time you Vuescan to grayscale, you instead scan to RGB (even if it's a monochrome) ... or, convert the grayscale TIFs to RGB before ACR.
[Edit: I wonder what would happen if you imported these grayscales into Lightroom, and then asked to 'Develop'(?) That is, are grayscale images campatible with Lr?]
Those are good ideas, I'll give them try and post back here. I may have chosen the grayscale output in Vuescan.
How do I convert a grayscale TIF ro RGB?
> How do I convert a grayscale TIF ro RGB?
In PS, menu "Image=>Mode=>RGB"
I tried the PS RGB trick and it worked. One interesting thing I noticed is that when I went back to Bridge, which was already open and thus already had loaded the file, I couldn't open it in CR unless I Quit and Reopened Bridge. Bridge must load a tag that only appears when Bridge is started.
Now I don't worry about the Vuescan setting when I scan the B&W because I know I can fix the CR problem in Photoshop.
Thanks for the advice.